Three die from swine flu

THREE people from the east of England have died of swine flu in the last week, it has been revealed.

Kate McGrath

THREE people from the east of England have died of swine flu in the last week, it has been revealed.

Since April of this year 11 people from the region have lost their lives after contracting the virus - and the figure could be higher.

Latest figures published by NHS East of England show an increase of swine flu cases in Suffolk from 770 cases to 849, with 60 people in hospital. Ten of these are critical.

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Nationally there has also been a significant increase in the numbers of swine flu-related deaths, up to 124 from 105 last week. The Chief Medical Officer has confirmed three of these have been in the region, however NHS East of England refuse to reveal in which counties the deaths have occurred.

Last week we reported on the death of a 40-year-old man who is believed to have died of the virus at West Suffolk Hospital. The cause of death is yet to be determined, but it is thought the man, who had previously been in good health, contracted swine flu which developed into pneumonia.

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There has also been a further three school outbreaks in the region, taking the total to 30 since the beginning of the autumn term.

Despite the recent fatalities, Dr Brian Keeble, director of pandemic response at NHS Suffolk, said the figures are still lower than those caused by seasonal flu.

He said: “It is estimated there will be 1,000 deaths from swine flu over the winter months. This is far fewer than deaths caused by seasonal flu.

“In Suffolk we could expect about ten deaths, because Suffolk makes up approximately 100th of the population.

“The difficultly with swine flu is it affects much younger people. More than 95 per cent of those struck down by seasonal flu are over 65.”

Dr Keeble added: “It is very difficult to know what is going on in the locality and because of this we view all figures with a pinch of salt. It may be that not all cases are being reported and if you look at the number of people requesting anti-viral drugs the figures have changed very little over the last three weeks.”

He advised all those who are been offered the swine flu vaccine to have the jab as soon as possible.

A spokesperson from NHS East of England said: “NHS East of England can only give a regional figure for confirmed swine flu related deaths.

“These deaths are confirmed after full medical investigations have been completed. We can not give further detail on these cases as it may prejudice patient confidentiality.

“We also can not provide a running commentary on suspected cases. At any time there will be several cases under investigation across the region; some of these may later be confirmed as swine flu related deaths, whilst others will not prove to have a link. It is unhelpful to speculate about cases as this may cause distress to the family.”

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